So many of my black friends are quieter right now—and I asked why. There’s so much pain…mixed with fear of a lie that has been a truth on repeat “nothings ever gonna change”.
So many of my white friends are quieter because they just don’t know what to say and know they will never understand…so what do you even say but you know you have to say something.
10 years ago I was at a red light when I looked to my left and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit…as I made eye contact with that strong, proud, black man. “That’s gonna be your son one day.”
I called the godmother of my kids, a strong proud black woman, to tell her—as she had held my hand through our adoption and she said, “Well—what did you think he was gonna be Andrea?!”
It hit me that a white woman raising a black son in America was going to be a daunting almost impossible task. Through the years I’ve had fancy pearled clerks follow him in gift shops to watch his hands and people also shake their head at me at restaurants as we walk in holding hands…yes this still happens. I’ve had to hold back tears on the playground the first time another kid said he couldn’t play with him to later lose it at the grocery when I saw there weren’t bandaids to match his skin. I’ve been angry, hurt and frustrated and my son is only 10…I’m a white woman and I won’t live it the way he will or my friends have.
I’ve also received glares from black strangers for having a black son when his lotion wasn’t on or his hair wasn’t on pointe. And while your first inclination might be to say SEE…it also took me awhile to understand why it was hard for many black people seeing me with my boy. It took me longer than it should have to understand. Would I love him the way the black community would? Would I know how to raise him? Would I know how to immerse him in culture in a way that taught him the unspoken life saving essentials among blacks that you don’t jaywalk, wear a hoodie, reach for your wallet, walk too fast, run in white neighborhoods, put your hands in your pockets in stores…all the things that can save your life.
That day I called my friend…all these thoughts were running through my head could I do this?! No. Not without her I couldn’t. Not with you either. God has been teaching me for 10 years what it looks like to live in the middle, and I have so far to go. I realized I had both prejudice and white privilege—one that needed to be recognized and changed and another that needed to be recognized and used to be louder and bring change for him…for my black brothers and sisters.
For 10 years I’ve posted on Facebook about these things and for 10 years I’ve been disheartened when there are zero comments about my race posts and 354 comments about something silly on our farm. But I choose to believe people care—they just don’t know what to do or say…and they are scared of saying the wrong thing. I’m also a little fearful to believe that lie that’s been a truth for too long that nothing will ever change…but I’m not gonna believe that. Instead I’m gonna believe this chaos in our hearts is another chapter of big change that black ancestors started forever ago. And for my son I’ll listen harder. I’ll listen to the shouts and tears in the past…I’ll listen to the comments where it’s clear people are not getting it yet and pray for them…I’ll keep going to my black brothers and sisters asking for help, telling them I know they’re tired and ask how they are holding up.
I’ll keep learning and changing and listening…not because I have to as a mom to a black son—but because I get to as a white woman in America. I heard a strong, proud black man say yesterday that change will really begin to happen when white people use their white powerful privilege to speak up so they are heard. We have to lean in and listen—so we know what to say. That’s all.